For us Blackburne House beekeepers, our world often revolves around our bees, so World Bee Day is everyday!
The United Nations launched International World Bee Day in 2017 to celebrate bees (all types) and the crucial role they play in our everyday lives for the pollinating they do that we heavily rely on for food. May the 20th was chosen as the date for World Bee Day because it celebrates the birthday of Anton Jansa, a pioneer of modern beekeeping.
Each year, a new theme comes around and 2021 is ‘Bee engaged, build back better for bees’.
My beekeeping journey started in 2010 when I took on a landscape architecture MA thesis where I wrote about gardens in part of Liverpool 8, a regeneration area of a city which had potential to play a vital role to enhance biodiversity through very simple, small measures. At this point in my life, I hadn’t ventured into the beekeeping realms.
The MA was aimed to be a community resource for environmental groups to learn about nature in cities and how we can work together as individuals to make connected homes and food sources for nature. The idea was to create a ‘buffet’ of diverse food for nature as well as build a mosaic of varied habitats. Both of these would be fulfilled through the creation of healthy soil, plants, trees, long grass and leaving a part of your garden for nature.
Images taken from my MA and Liverpool pollinators in Sefton Park
It was during my studies, I met Barry, a local beekeeper who had been keeping bees for decades. I was volunteering on a community garden project in L8 where he rode up the wrong way on the road on a BMX. For those who don’t know Barry, he is currently in his mid-late 70s, Rastafarian and absolute legend of the Liverpool bee world (in my eyes!).
He suggested I had a go at beekeeping back in 2011 as I’d learn more about gardens and nature than in any other way. It was the strangest thing anyone had ever said to me and beekeeping wasn’t really on my radar. But, I gave it a try and actually hated it which was solely down to how I was taught. I continued to learn in my own time and completed a Lantra Beekeeping course at Blackburne House. It was here I quickly fell in love with bees and beekeeping and I was lucky enough to shadow a master beekeeper for a year before getting my own hive.
Kind, helpful and inspirational people I met on the cusp of my bee days:
Barry –photo of when I first met Barry
Sheila – the beekeeper I shadowed for a while
My Ma thesis is as relevant today as it was when I completed it. This is an introduction into city nature and how you can do something positive in your local area or garden.
The small simple cost-effective interventions you can make in your garden are:
· Take part in #NoMowWay – a campaign aimed to increase habitat and forage for pollinators and other insects by leaving your lawn, or part of, unmown for the month. If you don’t have a lawn, maybe try to encourage others to have a go at this and see.
· If you have space, plant a tree for bees, like a Hawthorn, Horse Chestnut or Lime. If you have less space, plant a pollinator friendly shrub or climber like Fuchsia or Honeysuckle. If you have minimal space, plant seasonal friendly bulbs like Crocuses, Alliums, or British Bluebells. If you have pots or want to grow annuals, like wildflower mixes, Sunflowers or Nasturtiums.
· The type of plants I always recommend for people to grow for bees and are beneficial to our lives are herbs. I feel you can’t go wrong with Mint, Lavender, Rosemary, Sage and Chives. These purple and blue flowers stand out in bee-vision as bees only see in UV light.
· For solitary bees, make or buy some solitary bee homes. These, along with bumble bees are in serious declines unlike honeybees, so need protecting and conserving as much as possible.
· Put out a shallow dish of water (rain water is better) with stones in. This will provide a safe shallow landing space for bees to have a drink of water.
· Keep learning about bees online. There are many sites such as the BBKA, Bumblebee Conservation Society and Friends of the Earth plus thousands of educational footage on YouTube
Images from my MA. The work is a combination of my art & design and landscape architecture knowledge and experience. These with my community and communication approaches in working together, I was able to create a very personal book.
Since 2017, The UN have realised the importance we all play in supporting bees and other pollinators. They have come up with some recommendations, from an individual level to bee/farmer to government level where each of us can be linked.
As a Blackburne house resident beekeeper, I am currently making products using beeswax from the project’s beehives. These include candles, hand and face balms and dog paw balms. These are not only to share what we do with everyone but it also sustains our beekeeping projects into the future. Watch the Blackburne House page to find out when you can buy these amazing locally sources and made products!
If you are new to World Bee Day and want to find out more about bees or other pollinators, the best thing to do is search online. There is so much information about all types of bees and how you can help them. May is a good time to make a change for bees, whether it be big or small.
But most of all, enjoy learning about bees and have a very happy World Bee Day!
To read my MA thesis, click this link: https://www.dropbox.com/s/hjs9wur1y2a8fyf/FULL%20DOC%20lo%20res.pdf?dl=0
For more information about World Bee Day, go to:
The British Beekeepers Association is a great charity to help and support UK beekeepers:
To find out more about the Blackburne House bee projects, go to:
If you would like to learn more about what I do or how I work, check out my website!